"Getting Ready for the National Specialty"

This article first appeared in the January 2004 AKC Gazette and is reprinted with permission. AKC logo
by Kathy Griffin

Breeder/exhibitor Kathy Griffin is our guest columnist

With only 4 months to go until the National Specialty, now is the time to take a closer look at your puppy, Junior. The first thing your future star must learn is to gait happily with his head up, on a loose lead, in a STRAIGHT line. I begin by practicing on the driveway for short periods two or three times a day. Once the youngster is comfortable doing a “down & back” pattern, I move on to slowing trotting in a large circle, counter-clockwise. When Junior is trotting smoothly at your side (not crossing in front of you, not banging into your side or lagging behind), then you are ready to teach him to stack. I use the verbal command “steady” in a low, soothing tone while the pup is standing still in a stack, and the release command “okay” in a happy upbeat voice when it’s okay to move. When your star-in-the-making has gaiting and stacking down pat, it is time to practice these skills where there are distractions -- a park or conformation class. Your goal is to have Junior totally focus his attention on you, no matter what may be going on around him. I find with most Newfies, FOOD will buy you their undivided attention, so load up your pockets with goodies before heading out.

Now let’s move on to your puppy’s appearance. That dull brown dead puppy fuzz must go! Good coats are a reflection of good care, good health and good nutrition. My National hopeful is on the grooming table every day. He is thoroughly brushed and combed out to the skin. While brushing, I mist water mixed with a small amount of conditioner into the coat. I bathe every 10 days or so. Every other bath I deep condition the pants and furnishings with a hot oil treatment. Nails are trimmed weekly. When the dog is clean, dry, and totally combed out, I trim the areas that need work. The result of good grooming job is one that looks like it grew that way. It is impossible to properly neaten and trim a Newf in a single session the night before the show. You will get a much more pleasing result by gradually, over a few weeks, work on the areas that need it. Most Newfs grow an abundance of coat around the neck, chest, hips and croup. This often gives the dog an appearance of “no neck” and a poor topline when moving. Over abundant leg furnishings waving in the wind can make him look out at the elbows when coming at the judge, and long hair on the hocks can make him look close in the rear when moving away. These are all areas you need to pay attention to when grooming your Newf. It will very helpful to have someone stack and move Junior so you can study him and see what the judge will be seeing when he is in the ring. - K.G.